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Kest

Experience Banks

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Kest    547
I've decided to go with the old-school style character development of earning experience and then spending it on whatever skills you want, rather than the Elder Scrolls style of becoming better at skills by performing them. My reason for choosing it is because I've always found both systems equally enjoyable for single player games, and the experience spending design will be much easier for me to develop and balance. It's also quite a lot more safe from exploitation. It may not be as realistic, but that has never caused any problems for me in other games. Anyway, I've been considering implementing something that would nudge that design slightly closer to the other. Rather than earning generic experience that can be spent everywhere, characters could earn experience in specific categories. The categories could be divided a number of ways.. + Logical (intelligence-based stats) + Empathic (NPC-interaction stats) + Physical (body stats) + Creative (crafting/inventive stats) + etc or maybe + Ranged (all stats that can be used during ranged combat) + Melee (all stats used here - some can overlap) + Dialog (similar to empathic) + Computers (hacking stats) + etc Then there could be several ways to allow spending that experience. It could be prevented from being spent anywhere except it's own category. Or it could be allowed to be spent anywhere, but a penalty would be inflicted when it's spent outside of it's category. I'm sure other games have done similar things, and I'm not trying to be original. I'm looking for opinions. Worst effect of the system that I can imagine is the player having to keep track of several different banks of experience. What do you think?

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TechnoGoth    2937
So basically, it's a skill based system where you earn transferable skill points in the catagory that skill/stat follows under rather then in the skill itself.

It could work I suppose. Will you "level up" in a catagory or do you earns points to spend once you gain a set amount of experince.

What could work for transfering is a node tree connecting all the skills and stats. Transfering points across a node either divides (black) or multiplies (white) them by 2.

So, lets say on the tree you have:

Intellegence WB Computers

This would mean that 1 Point of intellegence can be changed 2 points of computers. OR 2 points of Computers can be changed to 1 point of Intellegance.

Like wise if there 2 black nodes between Intellegence and Strength you would have to transfer 8 points from computers to increase your strength by 1.

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Kest    547
Quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
So basically, it's a skill based system where you earn transferable skill points in the catagory that skill/stat follows under rather then in the skill itself.

That summed it up better than I did.

Quote:
Will you "level up" in a catagory or do you earns points to spend once you gain a set amount of experince.

I was thinking points. But the result is pretty much the same. Points are essentially small levels.

Quote:
So, lets say on the tree you have:

Intellegence WB Computers

This would mean that 1 Point of intellegence can be changed 2 points of computers. OR 2 points of Computers can be changed to 1 point of Intellegance.

That's an interesting concept. But the two lists I exampled in the original post would have been exclusive. There wouldn't be both a logical and computers category. Just one or the other. There would likely only be about 4 or 5 categories, with about 3-6 stats in each. I haven't actually tried to divide them yet, so those are just random guesses.

Quote:
Like wise if there 2 black nodes between Intellegence and Strength you would have to transfer 8 points from computers to increase your strength by 1.

That sounds more like what I was considering. But nearly all of the categories would highly contrast all other categories. So the transfer cost from one to another would likely always be about the same.

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Kylotan    9860
It seems fine to me, as long as there aren't too many categories. 3 to 8 seems good. The only danger is that if some skills are harder to gain experience in than others, it may effectively act as a penalty across the whole category rather than just with that skill.

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caffiene    237
Fable did something similar, using 3 categories.

It did do something a little different, though, in that it had a 4th section of "general" experience in addition to the categorical experience. I mention it because it leads to a potential problem when I think about what would happen if the general category wasnt there.

Namely, when you have only specialised categories, you need to be careful that a character doesnt get railroaded into a specific character build based on their early choices. ie, in a system if you improve in a specific area, you run the risk of not being able to safely use any other skills when facing increasingly tough enemies, which leads to only aquiring more experience in that one skill set... a vicious cycle.

Fable bypassed it by including additional general experience, the Elder Scrolls games offset it by also levelling stats as well as skills, which assist in general, etc.

Just something to keep in mind... The idea in general sounds pretty good to me.

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Kest    547
Quote:
Original post by Kylotan
The only danger is that if some skills are harder to gain experience in than others, it may effectively act as a penalty across the whole category rather than just with that skill.

That's something I hadn't considered. What would you suggest for compensating? Varying the individual point cost to upgrade each skill? Or perhaps giving each individual skill a different max limit, giving it more steps to reach the top? Or maybe the skill effects on gameplay could just be balanced enough to entirely avoid the need to balance the stats.

Quote:
Original post by caffiene
Namely, when you have only specialised categories, you need to be careful that a character doesnt get railroaded into a specific character build based on their early choices. ie, in a system if you improve in a specific area, you run the risk of not being able to safely use any other skills when facing increasingly tough enemies, which leads to only aquiring more experience in that one skill set... a vicious cycle.

If I understand you correctly, that would only happen if the game inflicted penalties on learning new things because you've mastered old things. Is that what you mean? That's usually a product of level-based systems.

In the game I'm developing, experience is earned at the same rate, and you are awarded the same number of points to spend, regardless of how skilled you are. Higher levels of skills would just cost more and more to upgrade. Mastering certain skills would still come at the cost of leaving other skills low, but not nearly as much of the cost as most level-based systems.

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Dekasa    127
I think what he's talking about is that if a player/character starts off using his physical skills in the very beginning, he won't (might not) be able to raise his mental skills, because he can't do much damage or be very effective with them. Since enemies, I assume, get more dangerous throughout the course of play, if a character tries to use his very unleveled skills, he'll have to fall back on his more mastered ones, hence gaining more experience in his physical stat, and very little in his magical/mental one. This cycles around as the further his mental skills lag behind, the more he falls onto his physical skills, and hence he is "railroaded" into being a physical character. The introduction of a general bank alleviates this problem immensely, as a player is able to put both their mental and general experience (general is earned alongside physical) into mental, allows them to raise it higher, more effectively, and more efficiently. But your idea of allowing a player to send physical experience into the mental bank does this, also, just make sure the cost of making this move isn't so harsh as it will handicap a player significantly.

Hope that cleared things up (and correctly expanded what he was trying to say)

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Kest    547
Quote:
Original post by Dekasa
I think what he's talking about is that if a player/character starts off using his physical skills in the very beginning, he won't (might not) be able to raise his mental skills, because he can't do much damage or be very effective with them.

Ahh, I see. Can't earn mental experience because only physical combat skills are high enough to fight the current bad guys with. That's a good point, and something to keep in mind.

Quote:
Since enemies, I assume, get more dangerous throughout the course of play, if a character tries to use his very unleveled skills, he'll have to fall back on his more mastered ones, hence gaining more experience in his physical stat, and very little in his magical/mental one.

There are a few things that should keep my game mostly safe from it.

- It's open-ended.

- No skills are ever inhumanly pathetic for the player. He starts the game with realistic human-level abilities.

- Enemy stats won't vary as much as typical games. To become tougher, NPCs will increase their strategy, armor, and weapons.

- It's the future. There are gadgets, impants, and weaponry that can compensate for any weakness. You just need money. I guess that makes money a bit like a general bank.

Quote:
Hope that cleared things up (and correctly expanded what he was trying to say)

I'm pretty sure that was the point. Thanks for clearing it up for me.

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firemonk3y    164
I personally wouldn't worry too much about over specialisation in a non-class-based game, whether you allow the player to choose what to level, or this is done as a result of their actions, your player will relatively quickly decide what type of gameplay they prefer. The fact that the system even allows for this is in some ways a huge advantage over class based games, where the player from the get go must decide the ultimate fate of their character. I personally have often had to restart class based games because I chose a class I thought I would love to play, but found it to be boring or frustrating.

The greatest advantage of a skill system that evolves in accordance to your actions is that it will generally create a character you like to play, however this character may in the end-game be weak due to the build, which is a huge problem. So balancing becomes the greatest issue here, you want to promote a certain degree of specialisation to avoid everyone firing up on the cheap skills and being overpowered as a result of this, yet you don't want to penalise a player because their style may be slightly more diverse than 'run away while throwing fireballs' or 'stand there like a man and hit him while he hits you'. However this is a bit off topic as you don't intend to use this system, so getting back on topic:

I like the concept of more specified experience, allowing you to create your character yourself, but restricting use of experience to within fields appropriate to where you gained experience. I also think that using the players money pool as a form of general 'experience' through the use of cybernetic modifications and what not is a good idea. but again, you have to be careful to balance this, as the greatest problem with general experience in fable was that it didn't take all too much ingenuity and effort to get a ridiculous amount of general experience. This essentially allowed you to become William Wallace, with the skill of Robin Hood with a bow, and magical abilities that would put both merlin and gandalf to shame, allowing you to kill the final boss (yes...a dragon -__-) in about 20 seconds.

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Gnarf    126
Quote:
Original post by firemonk3y
I personally wouldn't worry too much about over specialisation in a non-class-based game, whether you allow the player to choose what to level, or this is done as a result of their actions, your player will relatively quickly decide what type of gameplay they prefer. The fact that the system even allows for this is in some ways a huge advantage over class based games, where the player from the get go must decide the ultimate fate of their character. I personally have often had to restart class based games because I chose a class I thought I would love to play, but found it to be boring or frustrating.

This has less to do with class vs classless and more to do with whether you're letting everyone learn everything. If you took away the level limit in DnD Newish Edition, you could just pick a different class if your first choice didn't suit you. It'd stay be a class-based game. While in a classless game with a level-cap (such as the first Fallout), you can still mess up your character in the beginning and be unable to make up for it (you won't be able to max that one skill because you put your points in something somewhat useless earlier).

The examples are a bit off, but the point would still hold if you ignored the level 1 and 21+ special treatment in DnD and the almost-like-designing-your-own-class when you create your character in Fallout.
Quote:
The greatest advantage of a skill system that evolves in accordance to your actions is that it will generally create a character you like to play [...]

That's a bit hit and miss. Yes, you can pick up a sword and stab things with swords and become good at swording. On the other hand, once you're good at swording, if you decide you'd like to throw rocks at things, to become a decent rock-thrower you'll be stuck choosing the least effective way of dealing with enemies until you're good at throwing. Rather than keeping swording things and putting your experience towards throwing. You'll run into much the same problem if the skills aren't perfectly balanced (because one skill is superior to another, or because situations where one is useful are more common that ones where another is), and you'll have to make "bad" choices every so often so that certain skills keep up with the others.

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Kest    547
I don't really understand the motivation behind a system that prevents characters from learning the basics of skills after they reach certain proportions of levels or other skills.

For example, with Fallout, what would have happened if the speed at which you gained levels was always the same, regardless of what level you were at? Your skills would have grown out of control near the middle of the game. To remedy that, the game just needs to severely reduce the number of points to spend on each level. The cost of increasing skills was already set up to be more expensive as they get higher. That already provides a crossroad to generalization and specialization.

So now the only difference is that characters can upgrade really bad skills to decent ability after they nearly max out their important skills. They can even max out all skills, if given enough time. But by the time they do so, most would have already stopped playing the game anyway. In Fallout, there was a point where leveling got slowed to such a crawl that I no longer considered it part of the gameplay.

The only negative consequence that comes to me is that replay value is diminished, since players can master all skills in one game. But there are ways to compensate. Fallout's primary body statistics is one, since you generally have to start a new game to have a different set of stats - a different type of general character. And any type of skill setup where the player can only choose one of several abilities at each junction is another way to bump that up - similar to the Deus Ex augmentation upgrade cannisters.

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Dekasa    127
I think you should try to avoid making a character that masters everything feasible, though. It happened in Fable and got very boring (for me) that I could do absolutely everything, and I didn't sacrifice anything. I'm not saying don't allow it, just make sure the numbers work right so someone who fights a little more doesn't *always* become that uber-monster of DOOM. Mostly make sure the game isn't longer than the levelling system, or that the experience needed for each new level of power don't come too fast, so that at the end, the character is amazingly amazing.

Assuming that makes sense, good luck!

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Kest    547
Players that devote enough time to enhancing all of their skills will be able to master just about everything. But if they're playing to win the game, they probably won't fully max out even one skill by the time they finish the main quest (unless, perhaps, if they develop only that skill). No skills will need to be enhanced beyound moderate levels to finish the game.

However, there will be many optional objectives that will be far more challenging than the main quest. In some cases, the optional quests will even have a more meaningful end-result than the main quest. Truthfully, the main quest is only there for players who have a hard time finding their own way.

Imagine playing The Sims, except to win the game, you just need to walk from one street corner to another. The plethora of interesting things you can do before reaching the end is where the game actually exists - developing your sim, building the perfect house, whatever. The main quest will be more lengthy and meaningful than a walk down a street, but that works for the analogy.

I was considering using some type of skill degradation / deterioration. I've heard Ultima Online did that. However, my game is single player. It isn't really meant to be played for years and years as with an online game. I haven't decided one way or the other.

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Dekasa    127
Since you're sort of letting players "purchase" their skills/updgrades, it wouldn't hurt to allow a sort of buyback thing, that allows them to sell their skill for some experience back. Or have a trial run, where the longer you've had a skill, the less % of your spent points you can 'buyback'. Especially if you have many skills, it'll allow a player to figure out if they like THIS skill, before permanently spending 4+ hours of experience on it, or something similar.

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firemonk3y    164
I think that's actually a phenomenal suggestion dekasa, maybe have a time period of 1 hour in which a player can sell back their upgrades for 100%, so it becomes a test drive of sorts. I think this would add to the flexibility of the skill system, and seriously reduce buyer's remorse, since if you end up buying a skill/upgrade that you really dislike you will be able to get rid of it again with little to no loss.

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Kest    547
In my own game, the skill upgrades for most stats will be minor increments. Not enough to implement a sell-back system.

Personally, I've also always found that the risk involved with upgrading stats is part of the appeal of character development. If the character development itself is supposed to be part of the gameplay, then shouldn't tweaking the perfect warrior be somewhat challenging? That doesn't mean the stats should be cryptic or misunderstood, but I think test-driving would be taking it too far in the other direction.

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Limdul    109
Yup Kest.

Frankly, I played Fallout couple of times from beginning to the end, trying various character growth path to 'try out my own battle styles', and frankly, most of other single play games, too, class based and non-class based altogether.

Non-class based multiple possibilities mean one of two.
1) (Easy balancing) Become a superman
or mess up the skill tree but endure, manage to watch the end
or mess up and restart
2) (Hard balancing) Become an okay character
or mess up the skill tree and restart

Although there isn't any square partitioning of character classes, finding it out itself would be another pleasant entertainment. (lest players suddenly remember the 999 useless dungeon vacuuming and never do it again - that's what we call a 'single experience is enough' boring game)

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